Sunday, August 29, 2010

Live blog, photos: Glenn Beck and Al Sharpton 8-28 rallies

Saturday August 28th marked the 47th anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr's "I have a Dream" speech.   If Fox News host Glenn Beck is to be believed, it was entirely by accident that he chose this day to hold his "Restoring Honor" rally at the Lincoln Memorial.  Invited guests included Sarah Palin and a fundamentalist Christian niece of MLK.   At the last minute, Rev. Al Sharpton's foundation decided to hold a rally at a Washington D.C. high school, followed by a march to the MLK memorial which is located on the backside of the Lincoln memorial.  They called the event "Reclaim the Dream".

Jotman was there.

Glenn Beck's "Restoring Honor" rally

Above:  How many people attended the Glenn Beck Rally?  I heard one rally participant say he thought there were 300,000.  That figure struck me as high (More on rally numbers below).

Left: I accidentally stepped on a woman's foot and she  chirped back, "Don't tread on me!"  The revolutionary slogan seems to be the unofficial motto of the Tea Party, yellow and black its colors. 

Right: Although Jotman has blogged about Palin extensively, this was his first Sarah Palin sighting.  

I only caught a few lines of Glenn Beck's speech:  "government of the people, by the people...."  Beck was channeling Lincoln.  

It struck me that I was having the same visceral negative reaction to hearing Glenn Beck as I had had to a recent Obama speech.   Both men borrow heavily from the greats of American rhetoric:  Perhaps Obama's specialty, imitating style but neglecting the underlying principles, is the lesser offense. I find Beck's penchant for distorting ideas and facts troubling.

This distinction aside, some Democrats are complaining that Glenn Beck is making a mockery of the "dream speech anniversary".  But it seems to me that the first to exploit Martin Luther King's legacy was the senator from Illinois. In 2008 Obama appropriated King's rhetoric in an effort to suggest meaningful change was afoot, when he was just hawking the usual corporatist agenda.  

Against this backdrop, Palin comes across as authentic to some (even if she doesn't make any sense to most of us). 

Left: A sign with the usual list of tea party complaints.  Yet, what is behind the perceived "Take Over"?  (Hint: who paid for the rally?)

Looking closely at his sign, I don't have any trouble with the hammer and sickle in so far as it evokes comparisons between the US and the former Soviet Union:  Afghanistan, surveillance, high incarceration rate, secrecy, militarism, empire, assassination programs, incumbents almost always winning at election time, etc.  Not only has Obama failed to stand up to such ominous trends, he has abetted some of them.

Bellow: Spotted on a T-shirt:  "America is good." Might these three words define the root of this political movement's psychosis?   

If you try to argue this point you're liable to be dismissed as "unpatriotic" or "anti-American".   But if you let such a declaration go unchallenged, it becomes hard to persuade Americans that anything could be improved.  They will ask:  how could our industrial farms, our health care providers, our leaders, our military, our news media, our corporations, do wrong?  After all, America is good.  
Al Sharpton's "Reclaim the Dream" march

Above: shows intersection where people leaving the Glenn Beck rally and the Al Sharpton marchers crossed paths.  In the background, people returning from the "Restoring Honor" rally observe the "Reclaim the Dream" marchers.  I thought the smiles on the faces of many Sharpton marchers made for a stark contrast with the solemnity of the tea party crowd.

A frequently cited estimate of attendance at the Sharpton rally was 3,000.  Al Sharpton, citing the figure in a speech, said "there were three or four times" that number.    I wasn't at the original site of the Sharpton rally (prior to the march to the the Martin Luther King Jr. memorial) so I can't say.  But I  followed the march route to the end of the MLK memorial.  I would estimate that about 3,000 completed the march, and gathered to hear more speeches behind the high wall of the construction site that is the MLK memorial. I would estimate that the size of the Beck rally had been at least 30 or 40 times larger than the Sharpton march.

Right: The day also marked the fifth anniversary of the order to evacuate New Orleans prior to Hurricane Katrina. Two thousand people, many lacking access to transportation out of the city, lost their lives in the aftermath of the storm.  The back of this marcher's shirt reads,  "I will not forget."  

Shortly after taking this photo, I came across some people assisting a marcher who might have come down with mild heat stroke.

Nearby I saw a tea-partier wearing a t-shirt with Obama's likeness on it -- under the portrait was the word "Disaster".    Obama signs or t-shirts were surprisingly rare among the ranks of the Sharpton marchers.  It was by now clear that the first African American president had realized the dream for himself, but enough time has passed since the inauguration for doubts to grow about the president's commitment to the bigger dream.  

Left:  After the march, Al Sharpton (center) with Martin Luther King III (left) led a post-march rally in prayer.

The ratio of whites at the Sharpton march (perhaps 1:5) far exceeded the ratio of African Americans at the Glenn Beck rally (fewer than 1:50).    

Although Glenn Beck's rally was far bigger, Sharpton's march did not feel so much like a spectacle "of the media, by the media, for the media..."   Come to think of it, that might explain the smiles. 

Glenn Beck rally protests

Left: In trying to appropriate Martin Luther King for his cause, looks like Glenn Beck overlooked a few things.

Same place, 47 years ago...


  1. well, done. Thanks for posting

  2. Excellent, Jotman. Appreciate your thoughtful commentary.


  3. Much appreciated. Nice to have what amounts to a near-journalist on the ground in an age when journalism is nearly dead.

  4. I am writing to you because I know you won't publish my comments as they are far from praise of the shotty journalist work you claim to do...

    You state you didn't stick around for Glenn Beck's entire speach and yet you find what he say troubling... that is very interesting! Seems to me if you were to do actual real reporting of an event, it would be with your eyes and ears open and your mind ready to hear all sides to every story! You are yet another problem with our country, telling one side and trying to scream louder than the majority of voices so you can be heard.

    If you were to actually listen to what American's are saying right now, you would understand that our country is being torn to pieces...

    Ah well, I know this is a waste of time, but had to speak my mind! Like you said, compare the photos! The Rally on 8/28 was a serious thing! If it weren't you can bet that the Over 300,000 people that made the trip, wouldn't have bothered going! No Union Bosses had to force people to attend! The 1/50 ratio you report of blacks to whites at the 8/28 rally, was stupid! When 98% of those that spoke that day weren't white! Did you even take the time to watch or listen to any of the speakers? Or were you to busy running through the crowd looking for that one photo to make the rally attendants look vicious? Ah what to do when confronted with an actual peaceful Protest!

    One last thing, consider that for every 1 person at the 8/28 rally there was 10 people at home wishing they could have attended!!! :)

    First Nov. 2010 then 2012 and getting America Back on her feet!

  5. Dear Not You!!

    I stand by my estimate concerning the make-up of the crowd. Yes, I did circulate among the audience, and that's why I'm confident of my estimate.

    The ethnic make up of the people on the stage is irrelevant to my point. Is one African American on a stage worth 2,000 in a crowd? Is that your point?

    Perhaps that's where you are coming from. It's like saying that because the White House is now occupied by a black man, this somehow changed everything. When Obama took over, the country was alread on the wrong course. Just like the minority figures on Glenn Beck's stage, Obama is a distraction. While Rupert Murdoch's cable news channel gets you excited about this or that insult to your honor, the corporations get laws passed that force taxpayers to subsidize shipping jobs overseas. While Fox News gets the middle class freaking out over some perceived insult to their dignity, the corporations and banks snatch their money. It's classic bait and switch.

    Glenn Beck's rally was funded by Freedom Works, a front for Koch Industries. Koch is an energy company (coal) and a major polluter. Fox News is owned in part by a Saudi billionaire with connections to the Saudi royal family. Believe what you want about their intentions.

    No, I didn't catch all of Glenn Beck's speech. A lousy sound system spared me the agony of listening to the man.

    If my intention had been to make the rally attendees "look bad" then I would have posted certain other photographs that I took that day.

    Personally, I thought the guy with the painted face looked tough and proud but not vicious. I imagine he would be insulted to hear you call him vicious.

  6. I am a man of mixed blood. I am 57 years of age, and grew up when race was a real issue. What I see now, is a true shame, for what Dr. King was trying to do. Al Sharpton, Jesse Jackson, Rev. Wright carry on like they represent the minorities. Check out where they live. And how did they get there, having never worked an honest job.
    During my years, I have never seen the race card thrown around like it is now. i have been called names by blacks, asians, other native Americans, and now, Latina's that call themselves La Raza. The Race. Does that mean they are the superior race? All you fools need to get your act together, and become AMERICANS!
    J.F.K. said it best ... Ask not what your country can do for you, Ask what you can do for your country. Of course, many of you can point out that a dead white guy said this. I would also like to know why the naacp, does not reach out to colored folks like me?
    Osage indians sure ain't white.
    There is not a country on earth, run by all blacks, all asians, all hispanics, that has more to offer than this one. Get you minority heads out of your asses, and move ahead. You have a mixed blood president now, no more excuses.


Because all comments on this blog are moderated, there will be some delay before your comment is approved.